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His biggest hits included "Begin The Beguine" and "Stardust," and he became the first white bandleader to hire a featured African-American vocalist when he brought Billie Holiday on board in Becoming a popular success always rubbed Shaw the wrong way, as he felt it limited his ability to pursue more artistically minded projects. A self-described "difficult person," Shaw had a turbulent personal life that included eight marriages to several famous actresses. By the s, Shaw had tired of the music industry and gradually phased himself out; by he was no longer actively performing.

He largely lived away from the spotlight until his death in Start with the Ellington Band and the great New Orleans clarinetists, and work your way into the more modern and far reaching clarinet artists.

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Use a slow down program like Transcribe! These are the essential tools to get you going in the right direction.

Jazz Clarinet Curriculum

Combining these elements with the technical aspects of The Improvising Clarinetist will yield significant results, and remember to be patient as it takes time and diligent practice to make this pay off in the long run. And please, through my website, feel free to email me with any comments, suggestions or insights regarding this material, or anything somehow related to the jazz clarinet.

Knowing your major and jazz melodic minor scales and having some degree of fluency with them is the first step towards learning to improvise. These intermediate exercises are designed to get the aspiring jazz clarinetist moving through these tonalities and will also help said clarinetist overcome the fingering difficulties inherit in clarinet technique.

In time these three basic patterns should be learned until they can be played without looking at the written page. Remember the Jazz Melodic Minor Scale is merely the Major Scale with a minor or lowered third degree relative to the major scale.

You should strive to develop these basic patterns through the entire range of the clarinet and through all 12 major and minor tonalities ultimately without reading them. These 24 tonalities form the basis for another idea we will address down the road in more detail, something I call Basic Instrumental Technique, or simply B. Major Scale Routine:Clarinet 2b. Scale Merging Fix.

This is a fundamental skill, as jazz improvisation at its essence demands the ability to seamlessly transition between not only major and minor but augmented and diminished tonalities. We will address augmented and diminished at a later time, however for now concentrate only on major and minor, and be sure to tune in with your ears to listen for the difference in these two tonalities. These Scales In Triplets are a step forward from the basic scales introduced at the beginning of this chapter. You will find some familiar intervals being used in a novel and unique rhythmic manner.

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I like to go from the first set of scales and thirds and merge directly into these triplet scales and intervals. It takes patience and attention to the rhythmic complexity to make this work out. Give it a try and see what you can do with this material in tandem with my original scale ideas……. Articulation with respect to clarinet and saxophone refers to the use of the tongue, where it is placed with respect to the beat, and how the articulation is used to execute phrases.

Clarinetists in particular coming from a classical background invariably have difficulty learning jazz phrasing, and the secret is in the articulation. In no way is the difficulty totally confined to clarinetists, however, as I have seen this problem plague many a saxophone student as well.


Generally speaking, a smooth, legato stroke with the tongue is desirable, particularly when playing the standard swing eighth notes in succession. Many educators teach the swing eighths are an eighth note triplet with the first two eighths tied together, followed by the remaining leg of the triplet.

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I think this is a good description of the feel of the eighth note line, but it can be achieved rather easily without any conscious thought by doing the following….. Therefore, if the phrase starts on the beat, the phrase should start with two articulated notes, the second which is slurred into, and then proceed to alternate tongue-slur, tongue slur etc……see the first line my example.